Es ist kein Zufall, dass die These von der Überwindung der Dichotomien“von Kultur und Politik,
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Es ist kein Zufall, dass die These von der Überwindung der Dichotomien“von Kultur und Politik,

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Dorothee Richter Strategic Operations [04_2004] As the starting thesis for the conference "Public Art Policies. Progressive Art Institutions in the Age of Dissolving Welfare States" in Vienna, Gerald Raunig defined the position of progressive art institutions as precarious on two fronts: on the one hand, all that is often left to the protagonists is the insight that, despite all progressive ambitions, within an art institution they always act as part of a hegemonic structure, on the other hand the progressiveness that they strive for is radically limited, in that the increasingly limited means of the welfare state provide an excuse for canceling funding for critical 1institutions. How uninhibitedly especially these kinds of critical projects are currently being terminated was demonstrated with the example, among others, of the art association Kokerei Zollverein Essen: despite the acquisition of co-financing for projects, the curators were fired and one of the most interesting and 2lively institutions in Germany was closed. Traveling back to Germany after the conference, I noticed that the very existence of this institution is denied: in the magazine of the German Federal Railway there was a presentation of precisely this coal plant in Essen, an industrial derelict of the postfordist age, but there was not a word about the art institution. The article was intended to promote an "adventure park" - the cultural industry at the service of powerful ...

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Dorothee Richter
Strategic Operations
[04_2004]
As the starting thesis for the conference "Public Art Policies. Progressive Art Institutions in the Age of
Dissolving Welfare States" in Vienna, Gerald Raunig defined the position of progressive art institutions as
precarious on two fronts: on the one hand, all that is often left to the protagonists is the insight that,
despite all progressive ambitions, within an art institution they always act as part of a hegemonic
structure, on the other hand the progressiveness that they strive for is radically limited, in that the
increasingly limited means of the welfare state provide an excuse for canceling funding for critical
institutions.
1
How uninhibitedly especially these kinds of critical projects are currently being terminated was
demonstrated with the example, among others, of the art association Kokerei Zollverein Essen: despite
the acquisition of co-financing for projects, the curators were fired and one of the most interesting and
lively institutions in Germany was closed.
2
Traveling back to Germany after the conference, I noticed that
the very existence of this institution is denied: in the magazine of the German Federal Railway there was
a presentation of precisely this coal plant in Essen, an industrial derelict of the postfordist age, but there
was not a word about the art institution. The article was intended to promote an "adventure park" - the
cultural industry at the service of powerful interests, as ever. In postfordism the motto is probably: less
bread, but all the more circus.
Franziska Kaspar described the example of the Kunsthalle Exnergasse as a process of the dissolution of
evolved, self-organized structures giving way to streamlined management models. The Kunsthalle
Exnergasse, the location of the conference, is part of the WUK, the largest socio-cultural center in Vienna.
In previous years, the management of the WUK had promoted the implementation of a "matrix model"
(originally developed for General Electric), which included strongly hierarchisized types of collaboration, a
new orientation to the concept of the customer, and a reduction of jobs. Franziska Kaspar: "Articulated
and organized social interests, such as those of the unions, were disregarded and employee
representatives were threatened. The 'objectification' of people, their reduction to 'administrative
variables' increased. An intensification of labor was executed synchronously with the elimination of
several paid positions, organization structures were 'trimmed down' and 'labor costs' decreased."
Another result of the "matrix" were new demands within the large socio-cultural center for the - from the
management perspective less lucrative - exhibition space and a significant decrease in the participation of
women in the board and other decision-making bodies. Franziska Kaspar again: "On the whole it
appeared to me that by decree from the board, executed by the manager, the political and cultural
system was distorted into a business, asociality was organized and the gender relations and gender order
were altered. These are mechanisms that correspond to the capitalist market economy of neoliberalism."
In his talk, Gerald Raunig picked up on these concrete experiences of the negative development of an art
institution that regards itself as progressive. It is no longer only the state that "governs" in a
governmentality setting, but rather a complex mesh of institutions and protagonists. In this specific case,
it is not only the reactionary Austrian government attempting to do away with emancipatory art
institutions by decreasing funding, but rather a network of outsourced enterprises, NGOs and
"responsible" individuals, exemplified here by the NGO WUK, which undergo a neoliberal transformation
under an economically delimited argumentation. Raunig: "A new field of the management of microsectors
is crystallizing in the dissolution of the welfare state, an in-between field between government by the
1
Cf.
http://www.republicart.net/conf2004/policies_concept01_en.htm
2
Cf.
http://republicart.net/disc/institution/babias01_en.htm
http://www.republicart.net
1
state and the (self-) government and voluntary self-control of individuals: seemingly autonomous
institutions, NGOs, which are invoked and addressed by buzzwords like 'civil society' and 'distant from
the state' as being outside the state, but which actually function as outsourced state apparatuses." To
illustrate this complex situation, Raunig cited again, as in the conference announcement, the ambivalent
statement from Deleuze: "The final word of power is that resistance is primary." The argument of the
lecture thus sought not only an analysis and critique of the status quo (in other words, "the final word of
power"), but also options for agency, which would allow the actors "to emancipate themselves at least
temporarily from the grip of the expanded state apparatus. The dissolution of the welfare state is neither
a natural process without actors, nor a linear process without fissures, gaps and folds. It is exactly in
these fissures, gaps and folds that there is an opportunity for more than just an orderly retreat from the
privileges of the welfare state."
Whereas Gerald Raunig insisted on the "concrete and especially precarious lines of connection between
institutions and movement-related activist collectives" - counter to a separation between movements and
institutions - Helmut Draxler expressed a more general distrust of polar definitions of concepts. Draxler
recalled that critical institutions such as the Kunstverein Munich, of which he was the director in the 90s,
are bourgeois institutions as well (also from a historical perspective). He questioned the extent to which
art with political intentions has now become mainstream, and the extent to which one can speak of
resistiveness, when the cooptation of political expressions is a widespread marketing strategy. He
characterized the position of art institutions and their actors as profoundly dialectical and accordingly
proposed "speaking from the wrong place". He contrasted this "speaking from the wrong place" with
"speaking from the right place", which executes the self-assurance of "truth" in performative speech acts
and, in an extreme case, results in a performance (rather than execution) of putschist fantasies.
According to Draxler, this kind of speech act implicitly poses a claim to leadership. Draxler's
argumentation reminded me of Oliver Marchart's relativization of historical materialism in his remark:
"For Marx, the goal of a classless, transparent society without exploitation implied the disappearance of
antagonism. [...] All the subsequent theories, from Foucault through Lefort/Gauchet to Laclau/Mouffe not
only disclaim the validity of this postulate, they also recognize its totalitarian implications."
3
At the level
of the subject, Draxler calls for directing attention to manifold antagonisms and acknowledging one's own
involvement, rather than presuming a fixed dualism: here the revolutionary subject, there the state
apparatus. The question would be - in allusion to a statement from Godard - not how one could make
political art, but rather how one could make art political. Draxler's point here is to indicate the
distinguishability between politics and culture, yet still laying claim to places that enable the articulation
of contradictions of the subject, the institution, etc.
Jorge Ribalta presented the MACBA in Barcelona
4
as one such place: the museum not only enables
exhibitions that include and stimulate political activism, it also provides spaces for meetings, which do
not end in visualizations, but are instead intended to discuss certain themes. This concept functions
parallel to exhibitions of a traditional nature. In the discussions around the symposium it became clear
that this model would probably lead to the problem of a cooptation of political groups in Germany or
Austria; in the specific situation in Barcelona, however, the museum has developed into a motor for
political articulation, for which no site of discussion would otherwise be given. The example of the
Rooseum in Malmoe
5
seemed to be similarly productive in inviting artists over the course four years for
scholarship stays to work on the theme "In 2052 Malmoe will no longer be Swedish" dealing with
migration. These productions, too, are not immediately forced into the status of re-presentation, but will
instead be presented to the public at the end of the four years.
In several examples this refusal to present productions and discursive processes immediately in the
utilization contexts of art institutions was seen as a strategy of self-empowerment. Marita Muukkonen,
3
Oliver Marchart: Gibt es eine Politik des Politischen? In: Das Undarstellbare der Politik, Ed. Oliver Marchart, Vienna,
1998, p.93
4
cf.
http://republicart.net/disc/institution/ribalta01_en.htm
5
cf.
http://republicart.net/disc/institution/esche01_en.htm
http://www.republicart.net
2
for instance, described the structure of the NIFCA, a transnational cultural institution of the Nordic
countries, as a workshop structure enabling the participants to work on specific topics in more depth,
thus addressing, for example, the problematic concept of a Nordic identity against the backdrop of
migration.
The strategic operations proposed in the course of the conference, such as linking individual interests
with a communal interest, cooperative forms of working, collective leadership models, the possibility of a
reversal of power relations, facilitating conflictual debates and making discourse and platforms for
conflictual situations accessible, refusing utilization in visualizations and spectacle, the slowness of
"speaking from the wrong place", all require an ongoing decision and negotiation on the part of the
subjects involved.
In addition, it seems to me that the frequently cited and feared cooptation of a critical left's models of
working and living by management models of postfordism could possibly go the other way. Specifically
the eipcp - European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies - with its transnational orientation, its
European-wide network, its international symposia is developing a critical debate against the backdrop of
structures that the European Union provides for projects and regards as worthy of support. In this
context I would like to recall John Cage's response to McLuhan's dictum "the medium is the message":
"Just this: the medium is not the message. I would like to convey a word of warning to Mr. McLuhan:
talking is lying. Lying means collaborating."
6
Translated by Aileen Derieg
6
John Cage, quoted from: Ted Berrigan. "Interview mit John Cage", in: Acid. Neue amerikanische Szene, Ed. Wolf
Dieter Brinkmann and Ralf-Rainer Rygulla, Darmstadt 1969, p. 48-52, here: p. 48.
http://www.republicart.net
3